Impressions of iOS 10

I started using an iPhone with iOS 4 on a black iPhone 4. The system oozed with skeuomorphism, animations, buttons and shadows (those were the good old days). It was a truly revolutionary time to start using Apple’s products.

I was very apprehensive about design changes that came with iOS 7. Jony Ive offered us a new paint job on the tried-and-true interface. If you wanted simplicity it felt right. If you were familiar with the intuitive tricks of skeuomorphism you were probably frustrated. iOS 7 often seemed incomplete like Jony took simplicity too seriously. New interface buttons were just colored text. The invisible menus of 3D Touch added even more complexity.

I wasn’t thrilled with many of the iterative improvements that were to follow because Apple wasn’t serving power user’s interests. Apple changed the interface at a snail’s pace for the benefit of everyday users. As an app and operating system design enthusiast, I knew that iOS 7 through iOS 9 were all transitional phases for a more mature iteration that would eventually follow.

Finally, eventually has come. iOS 10 is a refined treatment of Apple’s flat design trend.

Uniform consistency and maturity

Generally, the colors, layers, shadows, animations and other design styles of iOS 10’s interface are welcome. The lock screen takes on new features and functionality. Control Center spreads out and sports new detailed settings. Spotlight search and notifications aren’t that much better than they were in iOS 9, but they weren’t that bad in iOS 9.

There are two controversial features Apple introduced in iOS 10. I know several users that dislike the all-new glanceable widgets, and others are understandably confused by the lock screen. How you unlock the phone from the lock screen varies a little depending on which model iPhone you use.

I like the glanceable widgets about as much as I like Apple Watch complications. I take advantage of them but I don’t need them. If Jony decided tomorrow that they had to go I wouldn’t be upset. I don’t know that I or anyone else has a legitimate reason to criticize the widgets screen, but haters are gonna hate.

The lock screen is confusing. Your best bet for a care-free relationship with your phone is to have a device with good Touch ID. If you can forget everything you thought you knew, it makes a lot of sense on iPhone 7. Apple thinks the best way to use the phone is to raise the device to wake it up, glance at the lock screen and the widgets for notifications and updates, then proceed to the home screen by pressing the home button. I’ve had my iPhone 7 for a little over three weeks and this lock screen is starting to feel natural. I think I would struggle if my iPhone didn’t wake when I raised it.

Maturing a design interface is very difficult across multiple devices with different features. If you want to use what Apple has in mind for both their software and hardware, you need to get on the iOS 10/iPhone 7 bandwagon sooner or later. If you don’t mind that the system took two steps forward and one step back, then you’ll be happy with iOS 10 on older iPhones.

Music playability

I use Apple Music because I have an iTunes library with 3,000 purchased and downloaded (or CD ripped) tracks. In spite of Apple Music’s bugs and sometimes confusing design, I didn’t want to abandon ship for a third party streaming service. I don’t want to start my music library again. Yes, there were times I wanted to scratch my eyes out while using iOS 9’s Apple Music app, but my library wasn’t riddled with bugs. And, somewhat surprisingly, every time I wanted to play my music or find something to stream, Apple Music worked.

But iOS 10’s Music app still leaves much to be desired. Apple redesigned the interface since iOS 9. Now, it looks a little like Pinterest. It’s the first complete shift away from anything that reminded me of the iPod Classic’s interface. I’m not opposed to the bold text, large tappable buttons or the bouncing cover art. I think that it’s a friendly and usable version.

It’s too bad that controls to shuffle or repeat tracks are hidden below the fold of the playback screen. Maybe Apple’s designers were catering to the iPhone’s plus sizes when they were crafting the app?

If I had one wish come true

Siri is really useful when she wants to be and the rest of the time she’s a nuisance. I would love to use Siri all day long if she would understand me at least 80% of the time. Apple and Amazon have introduced clever features using Siri and Alexa but both leave much to be desired.

What it comes down to for me is their conversational language hiccups. I believe people would make great use of Siri if she understood us. Already, Siri can manage our email and calendar, retrieve notes and recipes, start music and set alarms… But with every feature, you have to be incredibly exact in how you give Siri the verbal command or she won’t understand.

Since we’ve had Siri for a few years now, and on countless occasions She’s let us down when she couldn’t understand us, people are giving up hope that she ever will follow our commands. Friends tell me that they don’t use Siri, or that if they do, it’s only rarely for one or two tasks. Given her potential but the ridiculous learning curve it takes to use Siri effectively, I’m surprised that Apple promotes Siri as a hallmark feature of the iPhone when they haven’t introduced significant improvements since she was first added to iOS.